HBO's upcoming horror-drama series "Lovecraft Country" contains two very different types of villains -- CGI monsters that are straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel and racist characters based on real people during America's Jim Crow era.
Stars Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors believe the human villains are much more frightening. "I would say for me, the white racist, or racist in general, are extremely that much more terrifying than the Shoggoth or Cthulhu," Majors, who plays Atticus Black in the series, said during a panel on Wednesday for WarnerMedia's day of the CTAM virtual press tour.
"A monster is something that is driven by an inside system, and that system is to either terrorize or destroy, and there's no compromising with it. That's interesting when it's a feral dog for instance, where the dog is being told by its internals to attack, fight, kill," he said. "It's quite different when that monster is disguised in the same body as you, and the only thing that's different is the skin color."
Smollett, who plays Letitia Lewis, agreed that monsters of the fantasy realm are easier for the characters to defeat than humans who hold racist ideologies.
"What we explore in the show is how [with] a monster, you know what you get, right? If you see a Shoggoth, you kind of know what you're up against. The unfortunate thing about the spiritual warfare that our characters are engaged with in bringing down the racism is that you don't really know where it's coming from," she said. "And that is sometimes even more of a threat because it's unexpected. It affects your livelihood, and it affects you on every single level, your pursuit of happiness, your pursuit of joy, your pursuit of family. Trying to live in a neighborhood that is all white, the isolation the loneliness but also the trauma that you've experienced on so many levels in being Black and American... the attacks come on every level for a racist, but the monster, you just gotta outrun it."
Showrunner Misha Green confirmed that putting humans and monsters on the same level of evil was intentional.
"We definitely talked a lot about putting [racists] on the same plane as the monsters," she said. "The fact, even in the pilot, that you might even be relieved when the Shoggoth actually shows up, because you're like, Wow. That parallel was very clear for us and we were very adamant at making sure that we kept that throughout the season."
The 10-episode series, which premieres Sunday, August 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and streaming on HBO Max, comes from showrunner and executive producer Misha Green, co-creator Jordan Peele and executive producer J.J. Abrams, and is based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff.